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Blog 16 Jun 2017

Soy milk and peanut butter; what is allowed and what not?

Like vegetarian meat substitutes, substitutes for dairy products are often named after the product they replace. Because of this, it may happen that vegetable based products are on the shelves under the heading of milk or yoghurt. A German conflict regarding this subject led to a ruling by the European Court of Justice.

According to European Agricultural Regulations, the word ‘milk’ may only be used for a product which is “normally discharged by milk glands which is from one or more milking’s, without adding or removing substances”. According to the Court, ‘Milk’ cannot be used for a pure vegetable product. The adding of clarifications such as ‘tofu’ or ‘soya’, which should clarify that the product is a dairy replacer is also not allowed. This also applies to diary product names such as butter, cheese and yoghurt. Products that are collectively known as ‘soy milk’ can no longer be sold under that name.

What about the vegetarian schnitzel?

The ruling of the Court is solely aimed at dairy products, because the question of the German judge was simply based on a regulation of agricultural products. Meat- and fish products are included in different regulations. Therefore, this ruling does not end the ‘meat names’ for meat replacement products, such as 'the vegetarian schnitzel'.

The end of peanut butter as we know it?

An important exception to the rule are terms that – because of tradition or the use of language – have been indicated with diary names, while not being dairy products, for a long period of time. Think for example of peanut butter, cocoa butter and coconut milk. The use of these terms may be continued, even though diary is not (or barely) added.